Writing about writing #20170607

“Write like it matters, and it will.” Wise and weighty words from Libba Bray. I’m struggling under their weight today. I have many topics I want to start writing about, but I feel more than a little overwhelmed by the responsibility. I want to process these ideas with you- whoever you are. If the topic applies to you, I want to hear your side of it. I’m nervous about making a statement that excludes something important, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to end an important discussion by not introducing a topic correctly.

Currently,  The Big Topics are on a list that includes much more than the following:

Building community through shared meals (or other routines, or camping)

Simple acts of care during crisis

Something about Hospice care- more about loved ones dying

Raising a feminist son- more on being a white mom when your kids are not white

Depression and loneliness, or “asking for help is the only way to kill it, so why is is so hard to ask for help”

I don’t feel like The Big Topics aren’t entirely mine to write about, so how do I start? Do just put my ideas out there? Do I awkwardly interview others to get their input and perspective? Do I hop down The Google Rabbit Hole and see where I end up? Too often, The Big Topics are often overpowered by the ever-growing too-trivial-to-share writing list:

What to cook and eat when your kids have sports five days a week

Yesterday I felt-like-a-rage-monster, but it’s ok because today I feel-like-a-mom-again

I cleaned my bathroom and now I feel like I deserve a celebratory metal

I cooked a giant batch of vegan lentil and veggie soup, it’s all I’m eating for lunch and I’m pretty sure it’s giving me super powers

Seriously, eat more lentils, your poops will amaze you

Harry Potter: the best bedtime story in the history of the world

I’ve drowned myself in Google results, trying to narrow down the “how to start writing” results to the specific kind of writing I’m not doing. I’ve read what feels like hundreds of pages, but all the scrolling could be making it feel more substantial than it actually is. That last sentence is making me second guess my grammar, and I instantly want to close out of this post. Relegate it to the never-visited “drafts” section of this website. My ratio of drafts to posts is in the double digits at least, but I don’t want to do the math and find out how many times I’ve stopped writing.

So how do I start? Do I really just hit Publish and let this post drift off into oblivion? I think I’m going to try and take Walter Mosley’s advice, but in a more public way and certainly not for a novel. I’ll call this my first draft, and also a call for help.

I want to start working through my list, but I sure as hell don’t want to do it alone. Please, please join me. I’m sharing this with you and asking for your help. If you have an anecdote or story, I want to hear it. If you think I didn’t word something properly, or if I need to give something more clarity, I want to hear it.

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about all of this, so rather than mull it over any longer and change my mind, I’m hitting Publish. Yikes.

 

 

Simply planning #20170411

Sorry to be vague, friends and family. I lost my Oma last week, and am putting all my “best foot forward” energy into my time at work. Here’s what I’m cooking.

  • Monday Yesterday it was my turn to host our weekly friends-dinner, with a guest-friend-visiting-from-out-of-town. I made a whole mess of chicken pot pie casserole, salad, veggies ‘n dip, Rice Krispie treats, and chocolate-chocolate-chocolate-poke-cake. We devoured a pack of 40 pop-n-bake crescent rolls from Costco, and probably could have eaten 40 more if I had them. Box of red wine and two 2 liters of pop.
  • Tuesday Freezer pizza and apple slices, or leftovers.
  • Wednesday Knock off Chipotle veggie burritos at home: Black bean burritos with cilantro-lime rice, corn salsa, tomatillo salsa, and plenty of guac.
  • Thursday Burgers, chips, salad.
  • Friday This cracklin chicken with some kind of sauce, creamed spinach, and potatoes. The potatoes will be russets that have been peeled, quartered, boiled, the doused with butter, seasoned with salt, pep, and a bit of dill.

Saturday is the funeral, banana muffins in the car for breakfast, then lunch with family. Sunday we’ll be doing the “best foot forward” thing for Easter.

Lunch menus #20170313

Here’s the deal: dinner menus used to be easy. I would cook big batches for fun on the weekends, eat dinner with friends on Mondays, and really only end up cooking a full meal from scratch on Thursday nights when I alternated pasta and stirfry. Fridays the guys went snowboarding, and I’d pack them a bag-lunch-for-dinner and eat avocado toast at home with the pup. Viola. Dinner was done.

Here’s the second deal: bag lunches are big in my house. The eight-year-old will happily eat butter sandwiches, meat and cheese on the side, and apple slices daily. The thirty-eight-year-old and I both demand more variety.

The sad truth is that now that snowboarding season is over, I actually have to plan and cook more once again. Back to menu planning, double time! Lunches noted are for the adults of our household.

  • Monday: Lunch is curried chicken salad wraps, an apple (nature’s mouthwash), and crackers. It’s not my night to host our weekly friends-dinner, so I’m off the hook for cooking tonight. Woo hoo!
  • Tuesday: Lunch will be beef stew and a side salad. NOTE— the best thing I’ve done in a while is cube up a chuck roast, season, sear and cook a generic batch of stew meat. Half was already seasoned up and used for shredded beef burritos over the weekend. The other half will go into the beef stew for this day. Dinner will be pork chops, rice pilaf, and asparagus.
  • Wednesday: Lunch will be leftovers. Dinner will either be veggie Pad Thai OR veggie fettucini alfredo, depending on my mood and the input of other eaters.
  • Thursday: Lunch will be a creamy potato broccoli soup, with fruit on the side. Dinner will be Balsamic glazed chicken, green beans, skillet red potatoes with rosemary, and biscuits.
  • Friday: Lunch will be tuna salad wraps with either a side salad or fruit depending on the contents of my fridge at this point. Dinner will be semi-homemade-takeout. Beef & broccoli stir fry, rice, broccoli, and dumplings.
  • Weekend cooking
    • I want to make something with lamb! Braised or stewed, I’ll do some research, track down a lamb shank or shoulder.
    • I want to make some enriched bread! Maybe Challah! More research is needed! As you can tell, I’m very excited by my weekend cooking projects.
    • Some kind of cake will be made. I have a number of recipes I desperately want to make, so rather than try to choose I will put the decision to a household vote.
    • Cookies! Chocolate with peanut butter chip cookies, to be exact.
    • Three pounds of chicken breast. It’s not glamorous, but it has replaced lunch meat in our house and therefore must be cooked weekly. Perhaps I’ll get fancy and marinate some of it, but probably not.

That’s all for now- in my spare time I’m sifting through 4,389 lunch ideas on Pinterest, and will report back next week with any revelations.

Darian’s turning 8! | Birthday menu

My son Darian is turning 8 and has denied my request to stop getting older. He thought I was kidding, but I really really want to squish 8-month-old-Darian again, and I don’t think the laws of the universe should prevent that.

Back to business. The soon-to-be-8-year-old-Darian originally wanted to go to Golden Corral for his birthday dinner, but last night he changed his mind and decided on a semi-homemade menu instead.

  • Teriyaki chicken I use chicken thighs, and make a sauce with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki, sweet chili sauce, and peanut butter.
  • White rice I always keep a supply of Kokuho Rose rice, it’s my very favorite.
  • “Dry” ramen Darian’s favorite is Sapporo Ichiban original ramen, but mostly drained (1 or 2 tsp water left in) with about half of a seasoning packet.
  • Broccoli steamed, seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper. He didn’t actually request this, but I’m making him eat vegetables on his birthday.
  • Dumplings from Trader Joe’s- specifically their chicken gyoza potstickers, with dipping sauce on the side.
  • Reed’s extra ginger brew will be the beverage. Probably served in wine glasses because Darian thinks that makes it fancy 🙂
  • Oreo cake, barely homemade using this recipe, Breyers oreo ice cream on the side.

That’s it! This will come together pretty dang easily since the cake benefits from being made a day in advance. The timing won’t even be an issue, the only foreseeable hiccup is if Darian eats too much of his dinner and doesn’t want any cake. I’ll attempt to give him little portions, but if all else fails we’ll just sing to him and have him blow out candles before storing his cake in the fridge again.

I was trying to decide what I would want my birthday dinner to be, and I think we got it right last year by going out to Zen Box Izakaya. Previous years, I’ve gone to Salut on Grand (steak, calamari, all the drinks) and been ridiculously happy. I think since I make so many meals at home, the key to birthday happiness is going to a restaurant that I love. I don’t really want to meet a restaurant for the first time on my birthday, but I’m happy to make a few outings in the name of research.

Ground Beef Recipe Roundup | Not a menu plan #20140215

This week, I have general ideas and plans, but I’m not doing a *real* menu plan. I still wanted to ramble on the internet a bit, so here we go! Note: Grammarly tells me that I use too many unnecessary commas.  If it really knew me, it would tell me that I use an excessive amount of hyperlinks, but you already knew that.

This week, being Valentine’s week, there were many wonderful sales at the grocery store. Fresh strawberries, steaks, chocolate cakes, and all the other foods-of-love. Ground beef was also on sale. It is not a food of love. It is something that I buy when it gets to a certain price (2.99/lb for ground chuck), and then squeeze into my meal rotation for variety. Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky.

Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky. Here, you can imagine that I am rolling my eyes, or more likely, that I am making a face that looks like something smells bad. We call in a stink face.

So, what do I do with ground beef that is actually well received? Here is a handy dandy list:

  1. Most of the time I just make burgers and tell people to get over it. I occasionally add extra topics to try and amp up the tasty factor, but most often it’s just served with some salad and called dinner.
  2. When I’m feeling really fancy and plan in advance, I make pie crust and then make pasties. This is rare, and happens at most about every three months.
  3. Lasagna! I have yet to settle on a “real” recipe, usually, I just adapt whatever is on the back of the Creamette noodle box. This only happens if I can make it on a weekend day, and then reheat during the week.
  4. More often than lasagna, stuffed shells with meatballs happen, but I add cooked/seasoned spinach to the stuffing mix. For the meatballs, I often get frozen and am less than satisfied with the result, but sometimes I’ll actually make them with this recipe, subbing in Panko breadcrumbs and Italian herbs. I’m not sure that this method is actually any easier than Lasagna, but it easily makes a double recipe so I can freeze a pan for later.
  5. Meatloaf. I always add ketchup to the mix and on top, and I should really make this more. It’s probably happening this week.

The list of things I wish the rest of my household would enjoy is quite a bit longer. I generally try to not dwell on this too much, but I think it would be helpful to have a list of “stuff I should make just for my lunches, because I’m worth it” so here it is:

  1. Stuffed peppers! I think these are rejected because of the watery-ness of the peppers, but I think they’d be great. Here’s one recipe I’d like to try, or maybe I could find some kind of stuffed poblano recipe with a bit more research.
  2. Chili. The medium one loves it too, the big one gets heartburn, and it’s always too spicy for the little one. I really just need to make myself a smaller batch, and then freeze portions for later. My problem is that I can rarely make something that I prefer to Wendy’s chili, so maybe it’s time to start testing out knockoff recipes.
  3. I would also make some kind of “taco pie” but that usually ends up giving me indigestion 😦
  4. Cabbage roll casserole, but with the rice cooked on the side. I have a handwritten recipe that calls for ground beef, chopped onion, chopped cabbage, and Campbell’s tomato soup. It’s mighty tasty right out of the oven to me, but the texture bothers others and it doesn’t reheat particularly well.
  5. Salsbury steak, Swedish meatballs, and beef stroganoff. I haven’t ever really attempted a recipe for these, but end up really really enjoying them when I happen to have them at Ikea, some hole-in-the-wall-diner, or if I splurge on a frozen dinner. The problem with making them is that I am resonably sure that I would be the only person eating it, and I don’t prefer these as leftovers.

Welp, that’s all for now. If you have a favorite ground beef recipe please share it with me!

Cooking lately #20170202

Some things have been going *veryright in my kitchen lately. So, I decided I’d share a few of these tidbits. I don’t do affiliate links, these ones are just for your reference or for my reference.

  • Stuffed shells with meatballs
    • Cook the shells in heavily salted water per package cooking time, then rinse under cool water to stop the cooking.
    • Make the filling: mix together two eggs, two 15 oz containers of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, 8 oz freshly grated part-skim mozzarella, and one 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed, all the water squeezed out).
    • Assemble the night before splitting into two pans, one for the freezer and one for the next day.
    • Top each pan with one jar of pasta sauce and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. When ready to bake or freeze, add in some premade meatballs and add extra sauce to cover them.
    • Bake at 375 F, covered in tin foil, til hot and bubbly (about an hour for the fridge version, longer from the freezer).
    • Wait at least 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven to serve, then top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.
    • Easier to throw together than Lasagna, and easier to reheat. Plus, you get two dinners for the work of one. Do it.
  • Lettuce cup “sushi”
    • What do you do when you want to make sushi but realized half way through that you don’t have any nori? Well, if your local store is closed for the night, you serve it up in a romaine lettuce leaf instead!
    • Make this sushi rice recipe, and after it’s all prepared/cooled chop up some carrots into matchsticks, seed, peel, and slice up a cucumber, chop up some pickled ginger, top with toasted sesame seeds, then either top with a drizzle of soy sauce or go wild.
    • Ways to go wild: add avocado, add thinly sliced jalapeno, add some cooked salmon, add some teriyaki chicken, get some sushi grade fish and add it raw (I have yet to do this one), make a peanut/soy/rice vinegar dipping sauce and then drizzle because dipping is stressful.
    • Ways to cheat even more: make it with regular rice and top it with “Asian” salad dressing. Still delicious. Leave out rice completely for some low-carb deliciousness.
    • Not necessarily food safe idea: put leftover sushi rice in a Ziploc bag, leave it on the counter, and add chopped up lettuce and all the ingredients to a bowl for a “salad” the next day. Try it at your own peril, but I found it delicious and didn’t get sick.
  • Oreo pudding poke cake
    • It’s a recipe that’s not really a recipe, but more a method for putting together boxed stuff. It tastes REALLY good.
    • This “recipe” inspired me to try other combinations. So far, my favorite is to use the same method with this triple chocolate cake mix, top it with Hershey’s Special Dark pudding (follow directions for pie filling, two containers mix with 3 cups cold milk), top with crumbled oreos that have most of their filling removed. Better than the original, and the pudding is less sweet than regular frosting.
  • Oatmeal, made with milk instead of water. Perfect for any cold morning.
  • Jalapeno poppers, but coat the outside with BBQ sauce before baking and eat them for breakfast, or any time you want to be happy.
  • Spinach artichoke dip
    • Make sure to top it with some cracked red pepper and extra parmesan.
    • After you make it, use the leftovers on top of some (cooked) meat, and stick it under the broiler to heat up the dip/topping/goodness. Thank me later.
    • This blogger is a genius who has also adapted it for the slow cooker.
  • Pot roast
    • I have some in the slow cooker *right now* because it was on sale at my regular grocery store for $3.99/lb and that price means I make pot roast.
    • Serve it with rice, egg noodles, or some potato product. Today we’re having mashed potatoes, crusty-store-bought-rosemary-bread, and green beans.

That’s all, folks! Cooking has become a bit of “me time” that I am very happy to have. I hope you’re all finding ways to relax, get creative, and get away from your cares if only for a little while.

Hello there, 2017

Happpppy New Year! I don’t have any resolutions to share this year, which I regret a bit. More and more I hear people extolling the benefits of “starting now”, not waiting for a new year, and  I agree to a certain point. The thing is, I also enjoy the tradition of setting a goal at the start of the year. It’s definitely not necessary, but it’s kind of fun to have a date to look back on and proclaim that “this was the year I started to X,” or “this was the year that I made Y a habit.”

In review 2016 was both wonderful and heartbreaking. My wonderful Grandma Kate passed away, and I still miss her so very much. She survived my Grandpa much longer than she would have liked, and it’s been a shock to not have any maternal grandparents remaining. In 2016, there were so many positives to balance things out. My kid got glasses, and broke them only twice. My close group of friends went camping and cabining multiple times, and had our Friendsdinner nearly every week (though it moved from Tuesdays to Mondays). We added a loving puppy to our family, and named him Gunter.

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I’m not sure what the future of this intermittently-maintained site will be. I’ve started to lean more towards meal-prep than formal meal plans, deciding at the time of cooking how to best use the week’s ration of chicken, beef, rice etc. There are still times I miss the routine of planning things out, but more and more I don’t really want to document how often we end up eating the same stir-fry, burgers, spaghetti, and burritos.

In 2016, I tried, failed, and tried again to be mindful of how I spend my time, patience, and other resources. In 2017 I’m sure I’ll do more of the same, but perhaps with additional jazz hands for emphasis.